Well, yesterday I did the Brighton Marathon. Despite all my reluctance and belly aching, I got myself around it in four hours and 52 long minutes and I feel….well, brilliant. Mentally, that is. Euphoric.
Physically, I’m a wreck. I feel bone-achingly tired, in the way I’ve only ever felt after child-birth. My feet are road kill and I can’t look at the stairs without whimpering.
But what an amazing experience. 80,000 people lined the streets of Brighton on the most perfect of sunny days and they cheered themselves hoarse. What I wasn’t expecting – and what is the most brilliant part – is that it was like having a five-hour standing ovation.
The whole thing was very humbling too, and moving. When you get into the starting corals according to your colour-code of what time you think you’ll do (we were at the back) you realize the bigger purpose of such an event. The large majority of people are running for a charity, or in loving memory of someone. As well as men in Sumo suits, banana costumes, Scooby-do outfits and even one sporting chap dressed as a testicle, there are pictures of little babies in intensive care on the back of peoples’ shirts, along with beloved Mums and Dads, brothers, sisters who’ve been lost. One old couple in their late 60’s were running together in memory of their daughter who died of cancer when she was my age.
As a fellow runner, you get to read all these messages up close and experience the determination of the people who have taken up the fight against all sorts of terrible diseases. On the marathon day, those people who have been lost are not forgotten. It makes you feel so grateful to be alive and fit.
I was amazed, too, by the diversity of people running. In previous blogs, I’ve slagged off the men in Lyra – and sure enough there were plenty of those NSOH-types in Preston park at the start. I have to say that seeing a man rub Vaseline into his balls at 7.30am on a Sunday morning was pretty gross. As was the bloke we bumped into who showed us pictures of his septic cysts on his iPhone.
But once we got underway and out into the crowds, the whole atmosphere shifted. Down in Hove it was street-party time all the way, as people brought sound systems out of their homes and pumped out ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and Tina’s ‘Simply the best’, to motivate the runners. Kids handed out jelly babies and Mum’s wedges of orange. I even got offered a can of lager, but at mile 16, I declined. I was tempted though.
The worst bit was the penultimate leg which went down through the docks to the power station. First we ran through ‘The Wall’ – and actual wall – rigged up over the road, then a sign said, ‘Welcome to the Road to Hell.’ I felt a shimmer of dread as I passed it. After all the crowds on the rest of the course, this bit was only runners. Thousands of us pounding the tarmac in pain. You expect hell to be noisy, but it’s so much worse when its silent.
As I ran towards the pier, I honestly felt like every step was going to be my last. But with a crowd ten deep screaming my name, I didn’t stop. When I crossed the line, I did that comedy wobbly leg thing you sometimes see athletes do and staggered into the arms of a helper. Then I burst into tears.
So I’m sunburnt and sore, but I’ve got a big, fat Jim’ll Fix-it style medal of which I’m extremely proud. I raised a whole load of money for charity and now know that I can run from here to London without stopping, if absolutely necessary.
Will I ever do another marathon? No chance.
As my great mate afterwards said, ‘Jo, can your midlife crisis take on another direction now? Maybe the convertible Mercedes route?’ I’m inclined to agree.